Education and Society in Jamaica

Book Cover: Education and Society in Jamaica

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First published in Savacou No. 5 1971. Reprinted with permission in Sociology of Education: A Caribbean Reader. Edited by Peter M. E. Figueroa and Ganga Persaud: Oxford University Press 1976. Pp 47-66

In the 1960s Michael G. Smith had defined West Indian societies as plural and composed of three sections defined by colour -White, Brown, and Black – which were held together by force. One the other hand Raymond T Smith that West Indian societies were stratified into social segments sharing common values. This paper described Jamaican society at the end of the 1960s as being composed of four social strata Upper, Traditional Middle, Emerging Middle, and Lower which were multiracial to different degrees. While the Upper, Traditional Middle and the Lower strata shared many features described by M. G. Smith, the Emerging Middle Class was new and therefore did not fit neatly into plural sections. Whether the Jamaican society was shifting from a plural past to a heterogeneous future was left to time to tell. The paper then examined enrolment in public and private schools at early childhood, primary, secondary and further education levels attended by children of four strata described. Using data from empirical studies the paper analyzed the socio-economic and racial backgrounds of children attending different types of public schools. It also examined the proportion of students of the four strata attending high schools based on government policy of merit as the basis for access to public secondary schools. The paper also discussed public perception of falling standards because Government policy of expanding access to Cambridge examination passes in the English Language for the period 1949 to 1970. The paper concludes with a discussion of dysfunctionality as a source of evolutionary change in the Jamaican education system.

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